Start The School Year Off with a Bang!

Aug. 25 is the first day of school for many districts this year. Whether you are a teacher or after-school youth worker, this week is a busy preparation week where you will be intent on getting your youth space ready for your new student participants.

What better way to start off the school year than with fun getting-to-know-you activities? Here are some links to great resource sites for icebreakers. Don’t forget to check earlier SOYA blog posts on icebreakers as well to include in your repertoire!

Happy first week of school!

Interest = Attendance & Participation

Few folks would believe that I had truancy issues while in high school. Because of the work that I do with young people and my college educational background which can seem impressive at first glance, the belief is that I was a happy, successful and engaged teen.

That was not the case for the majority of my high school years.

In fact, my own personal experiences as a youth guides most of my understanding of young people’s need to feel engaged and connected when expected to learn, participate, and attend school-based and out of school time events. I understand first hand the importance of creating an environment of membership and belonging for young people, making them feel wanted and connected to their program and/or school when I think back to my high school counselor who told me I was probably not doing well in an English course because I was probably not good enough to be in the class. I was new to the school and had a record of excelling in my courses at my previous schools, particularly English, yet, rather than listen to my concerns, I was blamed and dismissed for having them. From that moment on, I would skip English class routinely– only appearing from time to time if I knew attendance was being counted or I didn’t have the opportunity to leave the school premises because the security guard was doing extra rounds.
Young people will find ways to avoid you at all costs if you are not showing an interest in them or creating–or, most importantly, guiding them to create– a space that they are interested in. If you don’t provide a forum for them to discuss, dialogue, express, earn, direct, etc., then you are taking away their opportunity to grow, learn and ultimately trust themselves and you.
If you are a grant funded program or initiative that is dependent on attendance numbers to justify budget requests, then this discussion is important to have with yourself and your team when thinking of best practices. Drawing the students to your program and having them stay there is vested in the levels of interest you are showing in your young people and the modules you have in place to spark and keep their interest in you.
If you need more tips or would like SOYA to come out and speak with or train your staff, email us at to schedule now. You can visit our website at
Hope to hear from you!
Khadijah Ali-Coleman